Monday, 31 March 2014

Let the poetry flow...

So it's the first of April and here comes the joke... I and my friend Maria (check her out at are doing an ad hoc version of NaPoWriMo and creating a little gem every day this month.  When I say this, I should probably add several disclaimers. Firstly, I cannot write poetry.  Secondly, my writing practice has been woefully neglected over the past, ooh, I don't know, year or so, so that sound you hear is the rust falling from my fingers.  Thirdly, Maria has cheated and ALREADY HAS HAD A POEM PUBLISHED, a fact that she neglected to mention and has me running scared already - and I've only been typing this for five minutes and fourthly, did I mention that I can't write poetry?

The locked bridge

I heard today of a bridge in Paris.

Somebody sometime turned a key
In a lock and walked away.

Now it is covered in locks,
Woven through the unblinking struts,
Above the unseeing water.
The love rusting slowly,
Ever so slowly away.

So, there you have it.  My aim is to write a poem, a first draft and nothing more (that's why it's so short, it's not like I'm going for a five page ballad in ten minutes) and to do it at 4 a.m which is when I get up to do my uni work before the day begins and the children wake, chickens need cleaning out and 8 a.m work gets ever closer.  My hope is that in 30 days time (and that is assuming I manage to do this on a four day camping trip with a four and six year old later in the month but I'm not thinking about that just yet...), I will have carved some 'me' writing time out for myself within my academic writing timetable and I can return to the characters who I left a long time ago in a place far away who even now still whisper to me ever so often that they want their story finished.  Juniper, Quil and Fenwick - I'm still listening!

Monday, 17 March 2014

What's in a name?

I was telling somebody the other day about my starting to write a blog and found myself struggling to say what it was about.  I know that it SHOULD be about SOMETHING because then the people who are interested in that SOMETHING would want to read it.  However, I am interested in lots of things and like finding out stuff about lots of other things that I know nothing about so to try and write a blog on just one subject seems tedious and rather difficult.  If I tell you that the three things I want to do this year are to learn to fly a hawk, ride sidesaddle and deliver a lamb (not simultaneously), it will probably tell you a little about my weird mind. 
This person I was talking to about blogs is very specific about hers.  It exists to show people how to apply makeup.  She was somewhat unimpressed with my makeup attempts and less impressed to discover that as I never now go out in the evenings, that I don't need to have an 'evening makeup' look on standby.  Apparently, my back up eye make up of green eyeshadow is so passe as to be barely worth scoffing over.  It's all about 'smokey romantic' now, don't you know?
I got to telling her that my blog is called '6 pm pyjamas' because, for me, that is the main change in my life since having children - ending the day at 6 and being ready for bed.  This is less fun when it doesn't get dark till after 10 in the summer by the way.  When they are little, as mine still are, bedtime routines are the lodestone of happiness.  Get this right and you sleep well, they sleep well and everybody is happy.  Get it wrong and as all the books will tell you (if you can stay awake long enough to read), life will not be worth living.  So, for the past seven years or so, we have started storytime around 6 and even though now school routines impinge upon that and often we are not even home till 6.30 (do you have any idea how many after school activities a 6 year old can chalk up in a week?  Football, cricket, rugby, swimming, drama, gymnastics, riding and don't forget the judo all mean bedtimes get later.  But one thing is certain, apart from that delicious one evening a week when I find myself at the cinema (not in pyjamas... yet), being in pyjamas at the same time as the children, snuggling down to read and trying to forget the work day is a special thing indeed.  All is right with the world as the lights are extinguished and only Classic FM intrudes into the dream darkness.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Dream big, Be grateful, Give love, Laugh lots

Today I am being and doing all the things in the title a little more than I did yesterday.
These are not ground breaking statements, in fact they are what I jotted down from a Wordle poster I was spending more time reading than I should have done during a tedious meeting the other day.  But they stuck with me, and as I usually remember very little, being cursed with a memory like that kitchen implement with very small holes in it, I feel that this imbues them with a certain 'specialness', a truthfulness if you will.

Now I honestly believe that I have a very good life, I am happy and I want for nothing that is necessary to keep body and soul together.  Okay, so I don't have that pony I've wanted since I was seven and neither am I Mrs Jake Gyllanhall, but those gripes aside, I am very lucky. Of course, it is human nature to not recognise this (by choice or happenstance) most of the time.  There are so many things to divert the mind after all... from the big and universal - the state of the world, government screw ups, economics and the environment for example, to the small and personal - the traffic, the weather, work, having to clean out the litter tray when the cat has JUST COME IN FROM OUTDOORS!  What, was it too cold to use nature's bathroom or something?

Anyway, to return to the point.  The reason I am being happy as opposed to simply thinking about it or recognising as an afterward that I was happy, is because of a young man I met today.  He is 16, confined to bed and brain damaged after an accident three years ago.  One moment, an ordinary boy on his way to school maybe, thinking about the weekend, perhaps texting his friends or kicking a football around and the next - a lifetime of operations, hospital stays, 24 hour care and losing everything he must have wanted to do in his life.  All in one unanticipated, random second.  A second that determined he was in the exact time and place where tragedy could and did occur.

I read in his notes that he had lost a lot of his communication skills and understanding but that he liked to chat if a conversation was started.  If there's one thing I can do, it's start a conversation and keep it going.  I have had a lot of practice in showing interest in subjects I know nothing about, from car maintenance to gaming and I know from experience that if the other person is on familiar ground, there is little I need to do to make them feel secure and confident than just let them run with it while smiling and nodding in appropriate places.  A great element of being a good teacher is being a passable actor.  I don't mean that these are not valuable and interesting conversations to be involved in, just that they are not necessarily topic foci that I would choose if asked.  I learn a lot of interesting stuff this way that I would not ever even have thought to ponder upon.

So, I introduced myself and he held out his hand to shake mine (he's lying flat on a bed) and announces 'I'm (name), pleased to meet you' so I responded with, 'Wow, you are such a gentleman, how chivalrous, offering a lady your hand.  I don't know any other young men who do that" and he snaps back, quick as a shot, 'Well you must know a lot of rude men then' and laughed.  Straight away, he was human; funny; sharp witted; kind and more than that, he was his own personality - he was living, he was enjoying life and he wasn't just a cipher, a 3D version of all the things I had read in his notes which by the nature of medical notes, were essentially a list of things he could no longer do.  So we chatted; about nothing outstanding or mind blowingly original - about dogs, school, hanging out with his friends, the way he 'rules the roost' within his family, watching tv, eating ham sandwiches, pizza toppings and being Italian.  I spent about 20 minutes with him and then left before he became too tired.

He, along with two other young people I have recently met, who have also had their lives changed forever through accidents, have really brought home to me how very, very precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away. 

There was a real sense of, for a better word, grace, about this young man and the way that he was coping with his altered self.  Can he remember how he was before?  I don't know and in many ways I hope that he can't but that is from my perspective and assumption that knowing how you used to be and trying to reconcile that with the here and now would be unbearably painful.  I am not sure if I can fully appreciate his experience from my charmed postion.  For him, however, it appeared simple; it was about being in the present, not worrying about the past and not being concerned about the future.  It was about communicating in a way that was meaningful and recognised by somebody else as important even if ultimately, in the grand scheme of things, the conversation was unimportant. Perhaps the not being important, the being ordinary and everyday was the best thing about our conversation because it is what everybody else does all the time -  what we all take for granted; passing the time of day sharing and being appreciated for who we are right now, not who we were or could be. 

So, though it may sound somewhat Pollyanna-ish, today I noticed the birds singing in the carpark as I left work, I appreciated the sun as it went down and I gave my children an extra big bedtime hug and told them that I loved them rather than assuming that they somehow know it intrinsically.